MedPAC Examines Rural Access to Care

The Medicare Payment Advisory Commission (MedPAC) looked at whether seniors in rural areas face barriers to receiving care. While access to care indicators appear good, the Commission said rural beneficiaries often have longer drives to appointments or cannot find specialists, in addition to the problem of local hospital closures. Yet MedPAC said there is reason for optimism that the availability of telehealth services and efforts to bolster rural hospital payments may help.

MedPAC’s work suggests that rural Medicare beneficiaries continue to have difficulty getting to their doctor and accessing specialty care and are more likely to face the challenge of hospital closures.

  • The Commission is updating a 2012 report that compared access for rural beneficiaries and their urban counterparts.
  • However, MedPAC noted that regional differences are often greater than the rural/urban divide and said that wider use of telehealth and a new Rural Emergency Hospital designation could bolster rural care.